EFR - Reviews of Scale

Scale

Tue 11th – Mon 17th August 2015

reviews

Flo Layer

at 16:48 on 17th Aug 2015

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Colin Bramwell’s one-man spoken word/storytelling performance was a moving and cleverly composed poetry piece, which retells the Gaelic folk legend of Coinneach Odhr, the Brahan Seer. This tale dips into the supernatural, haunted and downright bleak as Bramwell traces the narrative of the Seer’s birth, growth into a man and his dangerous encounters along the way.

The composition drew on a multiplicity of voice (in the manner reminiscent of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood) as Bramwell shifts from spoken word to straight prose and song. Some sections proved to be more successful than others. While the tailor’s night in the haunted Kirk Yard sticks in my head as one of the more memorable sections (perhaps due to its rapid pace and higher volume), the opening narrative of an encounter with a drowned girl on the beach better demonstrated Bramwell’s delicate storytelling.

He was certainly a confident performer, and his soft accent and husky voice only added to the already enchanting poetry. The occasional break into song gave the performance a, sometimes much needed, lift. Although he insisted that he was not in best voice, Bramwell’s soft and soothing tones as he sang various folk-style ditties, sporadically woven into the narrative, successfully led the story into new realms.

While the performance was mostly captivating, I think it would work much better on the radio. Perhaps it was the fact that we were crammed into the corner of a fairly noisy pub, the physical performance felt distracted and tiring. While Bramwell’s attention to a variety of facial expressions and changes of posture added another, albeit small, dimension to the piece – they felt unnecessary in a work that relies predominately on the voice and music.

Bramwell’s original music added a particularly elegant atmosphere to the show. Yet the clunky changes of track through a slightly dodgy PA system somewhat removed its magic.

This is a show that should have transported us to the wild landscapes of the Scottish Highlands. While I can only express admiration at the resurrection of what, for me, was a completely unknown, yet truly wonderful, folk legend, Bramwell’s piece ultimately lacked the sparkle to make it a free fringe treasure.

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Freya Routledge

at 19:23 on 17th Aug 2015

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Scale is Colin Bramwell’s epic spoken word creation, weaving the mythical story of Coinneach Odhr (known as the Brahan Seer) a fabled figure of the Scottish Highlands, who may or may not have existed in the 17th century but who has, nonetheless, become the subject of many legendary Scottish stories. Bramwell’s hour-long performance combined spoken word, singing and music. Although the narrative was sometimes hard to follow, his storytelling style was mesmerizing, generating a performance that was memorable and unique.

Wearing a full kilt, Bramwell embodied the Scottish roots of his story as he made small-talk with the audience as he completed his own sound check. Setting the scene with a back-drop of ambient and folk music he had composed himself, he began speaking, his lilting Scottish voice urgent and charming. This engaging storytelling style was accompanied by an engaging physicality: gentle movement and gestures helped him play out his story.

In order to convey each different speaker that featured in the epic, he would change the position of the mic, get rid of the stand completely or simply change the tone of his voice and alter his facial expression. One particularly interesting character was slightly hard to make out but appeared to be a head coming out of a grave, face scrunched into a ball and voice gravelly and chilling, a vastly disparate character from his narrating persona.

The decision to clearly distinguish the differing voices of the poem was a good one; at an hour long this variety was essential to keeping the audience interested. This was also achieved through mixing up the mediums by singing and whilst his folky vocal style was similar to that of his speaking voice, it was a welcome addition despite his admission that “I don’t have a great voice”. However, sometimes this variety wasn’t quite enough. The complicated and mythical nature of the story made it quite difficult to follow and sometimes I felt completely lost in the narrative.

Despite the narrative’s tendency to perform a downward spiral of incomprehension in my head, it was still intriguing due to the inherently wonderful nature of the mythical figures and landscape Bramwell described. What’s more, although the piece sometimes lacked fluidity, perhaps due to its length, Bramwell held a commanding presence as storyteller, creating an atmosphere of mystery and marvel.

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